The worlds of gaming and gambling are increasingly becoming closely intertwined.
On the face of it, gaming should have little to do with gambling, but video game companies have been cleverly introducing new ways to make even more money and boost their profits.
The use of items such as loot boxes has become widespread in a lot of video games now, with many believing they should be classed as gambling, though this is not currently the case.
Indeed, some countries have been mulling over a change to the law that would make loot boxes illegal, with Belgium having ruled a couple of years ago that they are against the law.
Games including FIFA 18 — then the current version of the popular football game — Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were among those that were cited by lawmakers.
Which companies are the worst for gambling in their games?
Electronic Arts — usually known as EA for short — is considered to be among the worst culprits.
EA makes the FIFA series, which in recent years has seen focus increasingly turn to its Ultimate Team mode. In this game mode, which attracts millions of people every year, players try and build the best team possible in order to take on others from all over the world.
While they can earn coins that can be used to buy players from the market, FIFA users are also encouraged to buy ‘packs’ that give them a chance to land a game-changing football star. Packs can be bought with coins but also with real money in the form of FIFA points. There are no guarantees that opening packs will result in winning players who improve a user’s team at all.
EA also caused a major furore in the gaming world towards the end of the year 2017 when it was revealed that one of the company’s major releases, Star Wars Battlefront 2, would be heavily based around the loot box concept.
Players who purchased the game found that they would have to use loot boxes and microtransactions in order to unlock everything that was included in the game.
After the outcry, EA rolled back its use of loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and the company’s executive Patrick Soderlund later accepted in an interview with the Verge that EA had got it wrong, apologising to fans of the Star Wars video game series.
EA is not the only guilty party when it comes to loot boxes and microtransactions in games, of course. In recent years there has been criticism for the makers of games such as Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Destiny 2 for their use of these things.
How much do video games companies make from gambling?
Juniper Research released a study in 2018 that found video game gambling was already worth $30 billion to the industry, with this figure projected to grow to $50 billion by 2020.
It is obvious that loot boxes are, therefore, here to stay as long as they remain legal. Let’s be clear, this is not gambling like you would find at real no deposit free spin sites.
But for many gamers, microtransactions and loot boxes are not included in gamers for the good of players and are instead simply a way for companies such as EA to swell their profits further.
Australia and the United States are among the countries to be mulling over the legality of loot boxes and it is not impossible to consider a future where they are banned in the industry. Australia has moved to introduce age restrictions on loot boxes in order to protect children. A similar move could happen in the US, where senator Josh Hawley is pushing for this change.
In the United Kingdom, a House of Commons committee suggested children ought not to be able to access loot boxes as they should be considered to be a form of gambling. Indeed, previous research released by the Gambling Commission found that almost a third (31 per cent) of children who were aged 11–16 had paid for loot boxes in a video game.
But it seems unlikely that a ban on loot boxes will happen considering the fact they are now included as standard in a huge amount of games, ranging from major series like FIFA and Madden made by a games giant like EA to budget titles released by independent publishers.
Mobile games, in particular, have long relied on microtransactions in order to make money for their developers and it is hard to imagine how these companies would continue to operate in a future where these were to be banned.
Video game companies have gone down the gambling road and they are not going to turn back.